by Craig Etheredge
Anytime God wants to initiate something new, he calls one of his own to make a bold move. You can count on it.
It was certainly bold for Abraham to leave his retirement plans in Ur and venture out into an uncharted land. It was bold for David to face off against the giant, Goliath. It was bold for Moses to return to Egypt where he was a wanted man. It was bold for Joshua to circle Jericho. It was bold for Elijah to build an altar. It was bold for Daniel to pray. It was bold for Nehemiah to initiate a building project. God always begins his new work by calling his people to make extraordinary, risk-taking, hair-raising, wisdom-defying bold moves. Without them, nothing great ever happens.
The greatest bold moves of all were reserved for Jesus. If I were to ask you, “What were Jesus’ bold moves?” you would probably say something like: leaving heaven, confronting the Pharisees, enduring the cross, maybe even the resurrection—you can’t get bolder than that! Did you know, though, that there were a series of bold moves Jesus made early in his ministry that were so critical, so strategic that if he had not taken them, the movement would have died before it had a chance to live?
John the Baptist was wildly popular. Massive crowds came from all over Israel and bordering countries to hear his hard-hitting prophetic message of repentance. John was like the Billy Graham of his day. He was a magnet to the people and a lightening rod to the religious leaders. Whether you agreed with John or not, there was no denying the fact that excitement was stirring and the people could sense it. Eighteen months earlier, John had baptized Jesus in the Jordan River, just north of the Dead Sea. At that time, he started pointing people to Jesus, declaring, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1.29). Some followed Jesus, but the crowds were still gravitating to John. Then tragedy struck. John was put in prison by Herod Antipas, the Governor of the Galilee region, for publicly exposing Herod Antipas’ illicit affair with his own brother’s wife, Herodius. With John out of the picture, the crowds were left without a leader and the movement could have begun to dissipate. But in that moment, Jesus made a series of bold moves.
When He heard that John had been arrested, He withdrew into Galilee. He left Nazareth behind and went to live in Capernaum by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, along the sea road, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles! The people who live in darkness have seen a great light, and for those living in the shadowland of death, light has dawned. From then on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near!” As He was walking along the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon, who was called Peter, and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the sea, since they were fishermen. “Follow Me,” He told them, “and I will make you fish for people!” Matthew 4.12-19
Jesus stepped into the vacuum of leadership and made four bold moves. First, he moved his home base of operation from Nazareth (his hometown) to Capernaum. Capernaum was a thriving city on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee. It would have been the equivalent of moving from a small West Texas town to the big city of Dallas. Second, Jesus began to preach the message that John the Baptist had been preaching, namely “Repent for the kingdom of heaven has come.” Third, Jesus began to give leadership to the movement. From this point forward, John would never again be the focal point. His work was done. Now all eyes were on Jesus. Finally, Jesus started calling out men to form his leadership team. He had been grooming Peter and Andrew, James and John for this moment. Now it was their time to make a bold move of their own. As a result of Jesus’ moves, the ministry continued to grow and the movement of God went to a whole new level.
From this point forward miracles exploded, Jesus’ popularity soared, and leaders multiplied. If Jesus hadn’t made these moves, my guess is the movement would have smoldered, fizzled, and slowly died out. Let me draw out a principle here that is vitally important. For ministry to move forward, it requires leaders to make Spirit-directed, risk-defying, faith-emboldened bold moves. These moves create momentum, increase focus, infuse energy, establish new norms, surface new leaders, and result in growth. You are simply not going to get where you want to go apart from making some bold moves.
If there was ever a time when the church needed leaders to make bold moves, that time is now.